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Lesson 1 Chinese word order (Part 1)

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In this lesson, you’ll learn

  • Chinese word order for basic sentences
  • Chinese word order for complicated sentences like “when”, “where” and “how”.
  • Chinese grammar rules for placing time, location and method of doing things in a complicated sentence
  • How to effectively learn Chinese grammar by speaking Chinglish

In this lesson, you’ll learn

  • Chinese word order for basic sentences
  • Chinese word order for complicated sentences like “when”, “where” and “how”.
  • Chinese grammar rules for placing time, location and method of doing things in a complicated sentence
  • How to effectively learn Chinese grammar by speaking Chinglish

Comments (89)

Sorry this question does not relate to this video, but what do characters 此 and 与 mean? I checked the dictionary and ci3(此) is used as "this", is it interchangeable with zhe4(这)? For yu3(与) it says that it is "and". Is it interchangeable with 跟 or 和? My guess is these are some sort of written formal Chinese, but I would really like to know the answer, thanks :)
Kvadich 2 months 2 weeks ago
Hi there, yes that's correct. 此 and 与 are the more formal written versions of 'this' and 'and'. You won't hear them much in spoken Chinese. Hope that helps!
Jason at Yoyo Chinese 2 months 2 weeks ago
Hi! Is there a good English to Chinese translator that uses good Chinese grammar? Thank you!
hapagirl8711 4 months 4 days ago
Here's an online Chinese/English dictionary (it's in Chinese, it tries and find sentences online that matches your search): http://youdao.com/
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 4 months 4 days ago
Hi Jenny, would the following sentence be correct in word order: 你在这儿要住多久?I am just a little confused with the placing of aux. verbs (in this case, 要), since this was not mentioned in Yangyang's video. Thanks as always!
franciscow 5 months 6 days ago
你在这儿要住多久 (nǐ zài zhè (r) yào zhù duō jiǔ) is fine, it emphasis more on how long (you are residing). 你要在这儿住多久 (nǐ yào zài zhè (r) zhù duō jiǔ) is a correct sentence too, but it emphasis a bit more on the "here". The meaning changes since the 要 is in front of a different verb.
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 5 months 5 days ago
Hi Jenny, that makes sense I think! Thanks for that :)
franciscow 5 months 5 days ago
No problem, glad we could help! :)
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 5 months 5 days ago
So to say "You told me that 3 times" can you both say "你 三次 告诉我了” “你 告诉我了 三次” ? I seem to see it both ways.
Ellen Paik 5 months 3 weeks ago
你三次告诉我了 would sound weird. You can say, this is your third time telling me: 这是你第三次告诉我了 (zhè shì nǐ dì sān cì gào su wǒ le)
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 5 months 3 weeks ago
Hi! During a Chinese class, I've seen this phrase (I will add "," to separate the groups of words): James mei3tian1 zao3shang5 ba1 dian3, qi2 mo2tuo1che1, lai2 [city name] shang4ke4. it seems that here "how" and "where" are used in a different order (how+where instead of where+how as presented in the video). What is happening here? Did I get an incorrect phrase during my Chinese class ? Thanks !
Gauthier92 10 months 1 week ago
The [city name] would be an indirect object, and not the where of the action. Usually, but not always with where of the action, there's a 在 (zài)
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 10 months 1 week ago
Here is another example of phrase that I got during my class, where Where and How are inverted compared to the golden rule presented here: Wo3 xi3huan1 zhou1 mo4 he2 wo3 de peng2 you3 zai4 gong1 yuan2 liao2 tian1 I'm really confused ;)
Gauthier92 10 months 1 week ago
I'm curious, what did your teachers say regarding Chinese grammar word order? I'd image they'd correct your sentence if it was wrong? It sounds better if you say wǒ zhōu mò xǐ huān hé wǒ de péng yǒu zài gōn yuán liáo tiān. Usually time words are at the beginning of a sentence right after the subject. Since the The golden word order is a good guideline to get students started, there's going to be exceptions to the rule so feel free to play it by ear as you advance more in your studies.
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 10 months 1 week ago
I have a question about word order for a particular word "fasheng" (to happen). Sometimes I've heard the thing that happens placed BEFORE fasheng, and sometimes AFTER. e.g. "Yige hen huaide shiqing fashengle." "Fashengle yige hen huaide shiqing". Is there any difference in meaning or feeling at all between these two sentences?
Ellen Paik 1 year 2 months ago
Normally people say 发生了什么 (fā shēng le shén me) instead of 什么发生了 (shén me fā shēng le), so use the second sentence. Word order of 发生 (fā shēng), just like most other words, has to be determined in the context of the sentence.
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 1 year 2 months ago
Can you also use gen to say with?
chinese001 1 year 5 months ago
Yes, you may! gēn and hé can be used interchangeably.
Micah at Yoyo Chinese 1 year 5 months ago
What is the grammar structure of this sentence: 不管是谁总比没人好。 (Anybody is better than nobody) and in what kind of situation(s) would this be said? Mainly I don't understand 是谁 as a subject. Is a more literal translation "No matter who it is, compared to nobody it's better"? If it's supposed to be "anybody" then why is there no 都 after 谁?
chambm 1 year 6 months ago
Yes, your literal translation is good. The 谁 "shéi" means "who," not "anybody," so there is no 都 "dōu" after it. This sentence follows the basic word order of a comparison sentence (see Beginner Lesson 97 for details), which is "X 比 Y adjective," except the "X" part is implied and omitted.
Yoyo Chinese 1 year 6 months ago
The full version would be 不管是谁 bù guǎn shì shéi ("no matter who is it"), 有人 yǒu rén ("having someone"--this is the "X" part) 总比 zǒng bǐ ("always compared to") 没人 méi rén ("not having someone"--this is the "Y" part) 好 hǎo ("better.")
Yoyo Chinese 1 year 6 months ago
Are the two phrases "不管《clause》" and "《clause》没关系" equivalent? They seem to both mean "《clause》 doesn't matter" in English
Ellen Paik 1 year 4 months ago
In some cases yes, but for example: wǒ hé nǐ méi guān xì (我和你没关系) You and I have no relationship, the méi guān xì (没关系) is not interchangeable with bù guǎn (不管).
Jenny at Yoyo Chinese 1 year 4 months ago
What is the grammar behind the word order of this sentence: 马上要进行考试。(The exam will start very soon.)
chambm 1 year 6 months ago
In your English translation, the subject is "the exam," but in the original Chinese, the subject is implied and omitted. The full version including a subject would be 我们马上要进行考试。wǒ mén mǎ shàng yào jìn xíng kǎo shì. The literal translation is "we (the subject) soon ("when") will conduct (the "action") exam (object)."
Yoyo Chinese 1 year 6 months ago
Thanks for the explanation. Is there a way to practice cases where the Chinese preferred wording has implied words that can't be easily inferred by non-native speakers? I would never have guessed that the subject "we" was implied there because it would be bad grammar to drop it in English: "Will soon start the exam." I assumed that it was some grammatical structure I didn't recognize and that exam was the subject somehow.
chambm 1 year 6 months ago
Being an English-Mandarin court interpreter must be very tricky in terms of waiting for all the information and rearranging it and then saying it all in open court. I did Spanish-English court interpretation a couple of times and found it to be hard enough. This sounds much harder due to the word order.
Hodge 1 year 10 months ago
Being a Spanish-English course interpreter is very challenging as well. You can do it! :)
Yoyo Chinese 1 year 10 months ago
你好, What would be the correct sentence order if I'm trying to say ‘I am looking forward (or I can't wait) to go to Tokyo Next week? Would the Chinglish be ‘I next week go to Tokyo can't wait’?
BB27 2 years 2 months ago
You may say, 我很期待(or 我等不及)下周去东京 wǒ hěn qí dài (or wǒ děng bù jí) xià zhōu qù dōng jīng. Lit. I look forward (or I can't wait) next week go to Tokyo.
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 2 months ago
谢谢老师。I'm really enjoying learning Mandarin , it's so interesting.I can't wait to return to China in a few weeks and practice what I've learnt so far: )
BB27 2 years 1 month ago
Why isn't "to Disneyland" put after "yesterday"?
Kuhns 2 years 5 months ago
It is no? wǒ zuó tiān qù dí shì ní le.
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 5 months ago
But, according to the golden rule, shouldn't qù be at the end?
Branicek 2 years 4 months ago
Yes, you are right. According to the golden role, the action goes last. qù dí shì ní is the action, so it's at the end. And adding the "le" indicates the action has completed. Hope that answers your questions.
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 3 months ago
I think what we both meant was: "wǒ zuó tiān dí shì ní qù le", but in the second lesson you explain that disneyland is an object of the verb qù, not "where" in the sentence. thanks anyway
Branicek 2 years 3 months ago
What is ming tian zai tu shu guan he .... yi xue
Draco Pool 2 years 6 months ago
It literally means tomorrow at library with...
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 6 months ago
Thanks! The "with Lily" and "with you work" sections are very important things to remember. I think they will help me a lot over the coming week or so, as I practice more sentence construction.
dreadnought 2 years 6 months ago
That's great to hear. Keep up the good works! :)
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 6 months ago
Ni hao! I stumbled across the word zài 喝, maybe you can help me to get out of my confusion :-) The app in which I found "zài" for example uses it in this sentence: Wǔ gè nán rén zài hē hóng jiǔ. It should work as an indicator for an action that’s taking place right now. But is it necessary? It seems like it is not very common to use zài like this, is it? Appreciate your help. We see us in your class, can’t wait :-) 祝好 from Germany
Deguoren_Laowai 2 years 6 months ago edited
Hi Deguoren_Laowai, I'm another student here, but I think I can answer your question. That use of zài(在)<verb>, is used for the continuous aspect in Chinese. A slightly longer form is zhèngzài(正在)<verb>, and both are very similar to adding "ing" to a verb in English. So your sentence means, "Five men are drinking red wine." There's more information starting in beginner lesson 83: https://www.yoyochinese.com/learn-Chinese/beginner-Mandarin-Chinese-less...
Corey 2 years 6 months ago edited
Hi Corey, thank you so much for your answer and the link, I'll give it a try :-) Shèngdàn kuàilè everybody!
Deguoren_Laowai 2 years 6 months ago edited
That's a great answer. Thank you, Corey. Happy holidays! :)
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 6 months ago edited
不客气,你们也是!
Corey 2 years 6 months ago edited
Yangyang can i learn my name in Chinese ? "SILA"
sila 2 years 8 months ago
Foreign names are usually translated into Chinese based on how it sounds. Your name sounds like 西拉 xī lā in Chinese. :)
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 8 months ago
very useful and helpful video.
sila 2 years 8 months ago
I love your detailed explanation of rules. for adult learning, this is very helpful and we don't get this kinda detailed explanations in traditional classroom. jia you!
hobie 2 years 8 months ago
Thank you so much for your support, hobie.
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 8 months ago
Do auxiliary verbs like huì and xiǎng go with the subject or with the action? For example, would I say, "Wǒ xiàn zài xiǎng chī wǔ fàn" or "Wǒ xiǎng xiàn zài chī wǔ fàn"?
psamet 2 years 8 months ago
Both are just fine, grammatically. There is a small difference in emphasis. The first one ("Wǒ xiàn zài xiǎng chī wǔ fàn") would be a good answer to the question, "What do you want to do now?" It's like saying, "Right now, I'd like to eat lunch." The emphasis is on "right now." The second one ("Wǒ xiǎng xiàn zài chī wǔ fàn") would be a good answer to the question, "When do you want to eat lunch?" It's like saying, "I'd like to eat lunch now." The emphasis is on "would like to (do what)."
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 8 months ago
How to say the following in Chinese? (Engl) Heather has a field trip to the museum by bus today. (CHglish) Heather today to the museum by bus has a field trip. Chinese?
slee65 2 years 11 months ago
You may say Heather 今天坐巴士去博物馆参观. Heather jīn tiān qù bó wù guǎn cān guān. Lit., Heather today by bus to the museum visit.
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 11 months ago
Hi, Yangyang, pls advise if I applied the GOLDEN RULE correctly in the following two sentences: "Last week Daming and his friend have caught a rabbit in the forrest ." " Daming shang ge xingqi zai senlin he nide pengyou buzhuo le yi ge tuzi " "Last tuesday at 3 p.m. I have eaten with many friends in an Italian restaurant the largest pizza of the town " " Wo shang ge xingqier xiawu san dian he hen duo pengyou chi le chengshi zui da de bisabing " . Xiexie ni and best regards Wolfgang
Hillig 2 years 11 months ago
Great job, Hilling. These are excellent sentences. Just a small typo. For the first sentence, I think it's "...he tade pengyou....". :)
Yoyo Chinese 2 years 11 months ago
I felt something like this but now I know he rule exactly. By the way, although you may hear "Like a Chinese" spoken by some Americans, it is not really correct. It is correct to say "Like a German" and incorrect to say "Like a French" or "Like a Chinese". The words 'French' and 'Chinese' are both plural nouns, whereas the word 'German' is singular. For this reason it is incorrect to use 'Chinese' as a singular noun. It has to be an adjective. Eg: "Think like a Chinese native speaker."
leonwool 3 years 3 weeks ago
Thank you for commenting.
Yoyo Chinese 3 years 3 weeks ago
this is very helpful, library is tu shu guan or just shu guan JC
JC 3 years 1 month ago
Glad that you found it helpful. Library is tu shu guan. We rarely use the word shu guan, but we use shu dian for bookstore.
Yoyo Chinese 3 years 1 month ago
Hi YangYang. I am doing this course along with some private lessons and in many questions, the Pinyin word 'jǐ' is present. I have consulted my English-Pinyin dictionary but I am still confused as to the meaning of this word. For example, in asking today's date in Pinyin, one would say "Jīntīan xīngqī jǐ?" and in asking what time another person goes home, one would say "Nǐ jǐ diǎn huí jiā?". What does 'jǐ' mean in these sentences? Thanks as always!
chris1108 3 years 1 month ago
We have lessons covers the word "jǐ". Would you please refer to Beginner Conversational Chinese lesson 53 and 57 for detail info. Hope you will find them helpful.
Yoyo Chinese 3 years 1 month ago
When you say "everyone" are you supposed to say 大家都 or just 大家 ?
WinterCatherine 3 years 1 month ago
It depends on how is it used in the context. It more common to say 大家都 or 谁都 for everyone. Please check out the our beginner conversational Chinese lesson 104 and 116 for more detail.
Yoyo Chinese 3 years 1 month ago
Thanks a lot, Yoyo. I´ve learned before in this way (let me use the same sample sentence): "I and Lily tomorrow at the library study Chinese". Please clarify this option. Regards.
ljose 3 years 3 months ago
That's also correct.
Yoyo Chinese 3 years 3 months ago
When I first learned Chinese I was taught to place the "when" at the beginning.. other people have confirmed this as well but then in the very next time I hear them use such a sentence, they use the word order presented in this lesson.. which is correct? Why are they teaching me one thing and then using another?
light487 3 years 4 months ago
Hi light487. Another Chinese language student here. Both forms <subject> <time>... and <time> <subject>..., are correct grammar. It's up to personal preference and whether you choose to emphasize the time or the subject by placing it first. It's like in English where you can say, "Yesterday I went to the store." or "I went to the store yesterday." That's my understanding anyway, and it's been working well for me :-)
Corey 3 years 4 months ago
What enforces 'verb copying' in cases like "wo3 shuo1 zhong1wen2 shuo1 de bu4 cuo4"? = What forbids "Wo3 shuo1 zhong1wen2 (de) bu4 cuo4" or Why can't an object intervene between 'shuo1" and the manner predicate "de bu4 cuo4"? Thank you!
Gongyisi 3 years 5 months ago
We have lessons discussed about the structure of using de. Please refer to our Beginner Conversational Chinese lesson 95 and 96. Let us know if there's any further question.
Yoyo Chinese 3 years 5 months ago
Xie xie
Ingwersen 3 years 5 months ago
Also, I can only find 1 lesson on the particle le, would you be able to give some more examples on this, please?
Norman 3 years 6 months ago
Please refer to our learning tips lesson 20, 33, 39, and intermediate course lesson 9 for more examples.
Yoyo Chinese Development 3 years 6 months ago
I found an example relating to negatives with the particle le: ta mei you qu beijing - this doesn't follow the golden rule, why is 'beijing' at the end of the sentence?
Norman 3 years 6 months ago
mei you is the negation word and qu beijing is the action (verb + object). It should be at the end of the sentence. We hope that helps.
Yoyo Chinese Development 3 years 6 months ago
Hello Yang Yang - can you please give some more examples of "How an action takes place?" I'm a little confused as to your meaning when you say "how the action takes place." Thanks in advance!
stryker.graham 3 years 6 months ago
Well Thanks .. Xie Xie
Narang 3 years 9 months ago
It's been around 21 hours since I asked the question. Haven't received any response yet :(
Narang 3 years 10 months ago
Hi Narang, sorry for the late replay. Our staff was out of town for the weekend. Regarding your question, "he2 someone yi4 qi3 do something" usually means "do something together with someone" . The focus here is on the "togetherness". You guys do it at the same time. It's similar to using "he2" alone but it puts a stronger emphasis on the "yi4 qi3 - together" part. Hope this answers your question.
Yoyo Chinese Development 3 years 9 months ago
Hey Yang Yang, Thanks for the nice presentation but I would just like to know that why do we have to use the words 一 起 (yi4 qi3) along with he2 to express the concept of being with some one .. Example : Wo3 Shi4 He2 Ni3 Yi4 Q13 .. I can understand that He (rising tone) can be used both as and and with so we can just say He (what is the need for Yi Qi ? ).. Please clarify .. thanks
Narang 3 years 10 months ago
i would like to know too!
Freezer 1 year 11 months ago
Adding 一起 (yì qǐ) adds more emphasis on the togetherness. It's also grammatically correct without it, but people more commonly use 和(hé) and 一起(yì qǐ) together.
Yoyo Chinese 1 year 11 months ago
Chinglish! Very creative, thank you. Also, in your video, the Chinglish is not "I yesterday went to Disneyland" as stated. According to the The Golden Rule, it should be "I yesterday to Disneyland went." Right? Because Disneyland is where (location), which comes before the verb, according to The Golden Rule.
Janet 4 years 3 months ago
p.s. Yangyang, I just learned the answer in the next video (part 2 of this video). So, it IS "I yesterday went to Disneyland." I guess I need to listen to both videos first or risk speaking Chinglish incorrectly, lol. Thanks again for your enthusiasm.
Janet 4 years 3 months ago
@janet I'm so glad that you figured it out. Yes, to Disneyland is not where the action "go" happens. It's the destination, so the Golden Rule doesn't apply. Just remember that "go to somewhere" in Chinese is simply "qu4 somewhere". :)
Yoyo Chinese Development 4 years 3 months ago
Hi Yangyang, Is it also correct to say 我明天(和Lily一起)(在图书馆)学中文? Is "How the action takes place" and "Where the action takes place" also interchangeable?
chelsea227 4 years 5 months ago
@chelsea227, yes this sentence is also correct. But for the general rule, try to put the "where" in front of "how" so you can make sure you're always correct. :)
Yoyo Chinese Development 4 years 5 months ago
I learned pinyin first, now I'm moving onto grammar. I'm not really interested in learning things like "where is the hotel" unless I know the grammar liek word order. Thank you Yangyang! This series is a great start to my journey!
Ash Blue 4 years 5 months ago
It's so great to hear, Ash Blue! Yes, I agree. Learning a language is like building a house. "Grammar" is is the structure, and the bricks are the vocabulary. Knowing the grammar will help you know where and how to lay bricks as well as how to use the same bricks building different kind of houses. Knowing the grammar well is an essential part of your Chinese learning journey and I'm glad that you feel that way.
Yoyo Chinese Development 4 years 5 months ago
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